Are you trustworthy?

Strategies to help you establish a professional atmosphere of trust through your website and newsletters

I get a lot of email - mostly because I sign up for a lot of email. At last count I was getting upwards of 50 email newsletters. Some of my friends tell me that I have an email addiction problem, but I can't help it. I love email. I also get a bunch of unwanted email, and that number is growing faster than the number of emails I want to get. Even with email management taking up more and more of my time each day, I still love getting email. However.....

The other day I was signing up for my umpteenth newsletter when I realized something had changed. I started to get a funny feeling about this particular site - an uncomfortable feeling, a feeling of uneasiness. I found myself wondering if my email address would be safe in their hands or whether I'd end up getting even more unwanted email. I found myself searching for and then reading their privacy policy, and I realized what I was feeling was a lack of trust.

Yikes! What could be worse than having your newsletter or website feel untrustworthy. The kiss of death to any marketer!

With spam a huge factor for all of us, getting people to give you their email address is more and more difficult. I am willing to bet I am not alone in my hesitation before entering my email address. I would also wager that click rates on privacy policies are way up from a few years ago.

It made me think about how important it is for us to inspire trust in our visitors and readers. Without trust, you can say goodbye to that new subscriber, that new future customer. Trust is created most easily over time, by proving yourself in an ongoing relationship. Sadly, those of us who crave new subscribers need to create trust instantly - to get the reader to sign up so that we can get a chance to grow a relationship.

How do you create trust? Trust is feeling that it's ok to give out your email address, that your precious email address will be kept secure and not sold or traded. I polled a few friends of mine and here are some of their thoughts. Keep these in mind, not just for your website, but for your emails and especially your sign up forms.

Look professional.
Use proper spelling, make sure all your links are working, ensure a working reply address, keep your layout clean and readable, and don't use all upper case in your text. The same rules you use to protect your brand will help generate the feeling that you are trustworthy. If you have one, make sure you include your "real-world" contact info in every email so people can see that you exist other than on the internet.

Use third party testimonials.
Other people saying nice things about you is far better than you saying nice things about yourself. If readers have sent you glowing compliments, ask if you can publish them and then do so. If you know someone that your readers admire and respect, why not ask them to give a comment on your newsletter and ask if you can publish it? People respond even better to third party testimonials provided by someone whose name they recognize and respect.

Be clear on what new subscribers are signing up for.
On your sign up form, if your newsletter comes out weekly, tell your readers so they can decide if that is the frequency they want. Link to some samples of your newsletter so potential readers can decide if its something they are interested in. Remember, at this point, they actually want to sign up, so being clear on what they'll be getting and when is a good way to remove any last hesitation.

Have a privacy statement and USE IT!
This is so very important these days. I NEVER sign up for anything without reading the publisher's privacy statement. A privacy statement should include the following elements:

  • What personally identifiable information is collected
  • What organization is collecting the information
  • How the information is used
  • With whom the information may be shared
  • What choices are available to users regarding collection, use and distribution of the information
  • What kind of security procedures are in place to protect against the loss, misuse or alteration of information under the company's control
  • How users can correct any inaccuracies in the information.

    Privacy statements don't have to complicated. I love Marketing Sherpa's privacy statement. It is clear, simple and very understandable. Check it out as a good starting point, or use the sample one at the TRUSTe website, then check your own to make sure it will help build trust. Lots of gobbledegook wording will only hurt you. How can you trust what you don't understand?

    Make sure you put a link to your privacy statement or a statement on how you'll use (or not use) their email address:

  • On every page of your website
  • On your sign up form - (You'd be amazed at how many people don't do this! If you are using GotBuilder™, click here to learn how to customize your sign up form to add a privacy link).
  • On your email forwarding function
  • On the confirmation email you send out when people sign up for your newsletter
  • At the bottom of every email you send out to your list

    Consider applying for an Internet Privacy seal.
    Similar to the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval or the Underwriter's Laboratories Seal, Internet privacy seal programs seek to provide an effective and trustworthy communications medium between consumers and businesses on the Web. Privacy seal programs ensure that Web sites do what they say and say what they do. As a result, they represent a powerful road sign that consumers can look for when deciding whether or not to trust the Web sites they are visiting. Privacy seal programs (1) ensure proper disclosure of a Web site's privacy and security practices; (2) they monitor compliance with those stated privacy policies; and (3) provide recourse for the online consumer. Check out TRUSTe - an independent, non-profit privacy initiative used by over 1500 companies and organizations.

    Address spam concerns head on.
    We all know that sometimes people forget they signed up to receive your email, but when they do, they associate your company with unwanted email - not a good thing! Best to realize it's going to happen at some point and tell people what they should do if they think they've received your email by mistake. I love what SpamNews does - they add a "Think you've received this email in error?" and then a link which in my case took me to the following page - brilliant! SpamNews is also a great publication if you want to follow what's happening in the world of Spam fighting, and they are very permission aware.

    While creating trust on a first impression is never easy, following these guidelines may help you increase your sign up rate in these challenging times. Any other thoughts on increasing trust with new potential readers? Send me your thoughts - I love to hear from you.

    Written by Lynda Partner, Partners Inc - Pragmatic Marketing

  • SecurityMetrics for PCI Compliance, QSA, IDS, Penetration Testing, Forensics, and Vulnerability Assessment


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